Sleep hygiene is the practice of good behavioral and environmental sleep habits that can help you get a better night’s sleep. Practicing good sleep hygiene goes beyond buying a comfortable mattress.
What you do during the day and into the night can greatly impact your quality of sleep. Some examples of good sleep hygiene include exercising regularly and avoiding frequent naps during the day. Good sleep hygiene can improve your overall sleep health — resulting in a more peaceful, sound sleep.
Our guide details exactly what sleep hygiene is, whether or not it actually works, and simple ways you can start applying it to your life.
Sleep hygiene has the potential to improve your ability to fall and stay asleep. Even a few small adjustments to your daily and evening routine can greatly impact your quality of sleep. However, practicing good sleep hygiene is not a cure-all for sleep disorders and should not be a replacement for medical treatment if you experience symptoms of chronic sleep disorders such as chronic insomnia.
Sleep hygiene practices are meant for those who are considered “normal sleepers” and may experience minor sleep difficulties at some point in their lives. If you’re practicing good sleep hygiene and still not sleeping well, you may want to see a doctor.
When we sleep well, we wake up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Good sleep habits can positively impact not only our overall health, but also our lifestyle. Good sleep hygiene increases our chances of a restful sleep, which in turn has the ability to improve our productivity, mental and physical wellbeing, and overall quality of life. Some other benefits include:
The quality of sleep we get each night affects how we look and feel each day, which is why healthy sleep hygiene is so important.
One of the most important good sleep hygiene principles is making sure you’re getting enough sleep. On average, adults should get at least seven hours of sleep each night. If you find that you struggle to get seven hours of quality sleep, try incorporating the tips below into your daily and nightly routine.
1. Soak up the Morning Sun
From the moment you wake up, you should expose yourself to natural light. Spending time in the morning sun can reset your circadian rhythm and tell your brain it’s time to start the day. An outdoor walk in the AM is a great way to wake up naturally and get a much needed energy boost. If you don’t have time to go for a walk, just open up the blinds or turn on the brightest lights in your home.
2. Practice Regular Exercise
Getting at least 20–30 minutes of physical activity a day can help you fall asleep at night. In addition to falling asleep more easily, being active can also decrease the number of times you wake up each night, resulting in a deeper sleep. However, it’s important to avoid vigorous exercise one to two hours before bed as it can raise your heart rate — making it more difficult to fall asleep.
3. Limit Daytime Naps
While the occasional power nap can be beneficial, naps longer than 20 minutes that occur multiple times a day can be detrimental to your sleep at night. Naps taken too late in the day can make it difficult to fall asleep at normal hours. Naps longer than 20 minutes can cause “sleep inertia,” which is the feeling of grogginess or disorientation after waking up. This feeling can last anywhere from two to four hours, making that nap feel like a big mistake. Next time you feel that afternoon slump start to weigh down your eyelids, avoid the urge to nap and go for a walk outside or eat a healthy snack instead.
4. Avoid Stimulants 4 Hours Before Bed
If you’re having trouble sleeping, try avoiding stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol at least four hours before bed. Caffeine can make it difficult for you to fall asleep and can cause you to wake up several times during the night.
While alcohol may make you sleepy at first, you’ll find yourself waking up more frequently. It also has the ability to cause symptoms of insomnia. Before you reach for that glass of wine, consider swapping it with a sleep-inducing drink such as warm milk or chamomile tea.
5. Create a Sleep-Friendly Environment
Similar to how you want your workspace to spark creativity, you want your sleep environment to induce sleep. Everyone has their own style so there’s no one way to create a comfortable sleep environment. Regardless of your taste, you should consider the lighting and temperature of your room.
The best temperature for sleep is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit for adults. Feel free to adjust the temperature to what feels best for you and your body, but colder temperatures tend to be better for sleep. As for light, the darker your bedroom is the better. If you have a partner who likes to read with a light, consider a deep sleep mask to ensure your sleep goes uninterrupted.
6. Keep a Regular Sleep Schedule
The regularity of your sleep schedule is not only important for quality sleep, but also for your overall health. Sleep irregularity can result in difficulty falling asleep, lower energy levels during the day, and increased stress. Setting a consistent bedtime can help you get back on track. Remember to set a regular wake time as well.
7. Unplug an Hour Before Bed
Sleep and technology generally aren’t the best combo. It’s important to avoid blue light at least one hour before bed. Exposure to this type of light can affect your circadian rhythm. It can also lower your natural melatonin levels — negatively affecting sleep quality. Make a rule in your household to shut off (or silence) all electronics before bed and wind down with a relaxing activity, such as reading or meditation.
8. Reserve the Bedroom for Sleep and Intimacy
Participating in activities other than sleep and intimacy in the bedroom can cause your mind to associate those things with sleep. For example, if your work from home office is really your bed, your mind may start to travel to thoughts of work when you’re trying to sleep. This can lead to feelings of stress and anxiety. To combat this, reserve the bedroom for sleep and intimacy only — you want your mind to know that when you lay in bed, it means it’s time to sleep.
9. Minimize Noise
Similar to how light and temperature affect your ability to fall asleep, so does noise. If you live in the heart of a city or have been blessed with noisy neighbors, you may experience a variety of sounds and interruptions throughout the night. One study found that nocturnal noise disturbances directly correlate to impaired sleep — whether the noise wakes you up or not. To combat this, try using earplugs or listening to meditative music.
10. Resist the Midnight Munchies
Many of us have the habit of grabbing a sweet snack before hitting the hay. While this feels good at the moment, bedtime snacks have been proven to have negative effects on sleep quality and can result in things such as insomnia, weight gain, or nightmares. Make sure to put the fork down two to three hours before bedtime and only snack on foods that help you sleep.
11. Think Happy Thoughts
There is nothing worse than sleep anxiety. That feeling of tossing and turning due to anxious thoughts is something many people struggle with. This type of anxiety can lead to an endless cycle of insufficient sleep. If you experience sleep anxiety on a regular basis, try meditating before bed. Meditation has been shown to make it easier to fall and stay asleep while also improving overall sleep quality. If that doesn’t work, try out yoga for sleep to calm your mind.
12. Don’t Force Sleep
Forcing sleep on your mind when you have too many thoughts roaming around will only exacerbate sleep anxiety and make it more difficult for you to fall asleep. If you can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get up, leave your bedroom, and try to calm your mind by doing something else. Read a book, make a cup of tea, or meditate, but do not look at your smartphone. Once you find your eyelids become heavy, head back to bed and ease back into dreamland.
Bad sleep hygiene is the practice of bad sleeping habits that inhibit one’s ability to have a good night’s sleep and can lead to a major sleep problem.
Inadequate sleep hygiene is considered a sleep disorder that can be harmful to your quality of life. Below are some examples of bad sleep hygiene:
There are many signs of poor sleep hygiene. Among the most common are problems falling and staying asleep, low energy levels, lack of motivation, trouble concentrating, and headaches.
Everyone can benefit from practicing healthy sleep habits. The next time you experience sleep deprivation and wonder why you’re yawning so much, evaluate your actions from the day before. Did you snooze your alarm multiple times? Did you take frequent naps during the day? The best way to get a good night’s sleep will look different for everyone. Experiment with what sleep habits benefit you the most and go from there.
As mentioned above, the environment where you lay your head each night plays a large role in the quality of sleep you get. Exhausted from the stress of the world around us, we often rely on our bedrooms to bring us comfort. Make sure you have a cozy mattress, fluffy pillow, and ultra-soft bedding to help ease your stress and lull you into a peaceful slumber. Soon enough, you’ll be on your way to sleeping better.